Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
In a few months, I will be traveling alone for 30 days. I’ve never traveled for more than two weeks straight so I’m taking this opportunity to experience traveling without much pressure. It has been semi-planned, because I know where I want to go, but I do have “unplanned” days so I could go with the flow and hopefully, be rewarded with an experience that could help me grow as a person, mentally and spiritually.
This journey, however, is not complete without its challenges. In fact, I have a long list from buying a better and bigger rucksack to saving up money for a good trekking shoe. But the greatest hurdles have nothing to do with anything tangible.
My first challenge is the entire trip to Myanmar, a country that recently loosened the shackles of Military rule. Despite its slow yet sanguine effort to obtain democracy, the country remains distant from the rest of the world.
As written on my previous post, it was a photo of Bagan’s temples in Central Myanmar that first captured my interest. The sight of ancient stupas that glimmer amid vast earthen beds intensified my yearning for spiritual enlightenment. Then I read a line from Rudyard Kipling that proclaimed Myanmar’s inviting charm: “This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about…”
Myanmar, like the rest of the countries on my bucket list, started as a cerebral portrait next to The Great Wall of China and The Eiffel Tower. But I finally forewent all that has been barring my mission to discover a country so enigmatic and special.
A week ago, I got hold of my entry and exit tickets and immediately started my pre-travel ritual of massive research. I admittedly have plenty of time on my hands but a famous travel blogger suggested that travelers off to Myanmar should read A LOT about the country first. So I did my reading and took note of every important detail. Before the day even ended, I already had a lot on my plate. This undertaking, reminiscent of a university course with a severely brutal syllabus, has proven itself to be so taxing that I can’t even figure out where to begin. Of course, there’s the money issue, but what concerns me the most is my limited freedom as a tourist. Here’s why:
- I am not allowed to travel alone to certain areas without a guide.
- I am not allowed to photograph any military personnel.
- I am not allowed to mention The Lady’s name.
- I am not allowed to see The Lady’s house (which is actually one of my goals).
- And I’m not allowed to raise anything about POLITICS.
I also read somewhere that my actions as a tourist will be monitored. I could encounter soldiers stopping me on the road to check my identification, and I have to be prepared for horrible bus rides that would go through a lot of military checkpoints.
The second biggest challenge is staying sober while on the road. I have long disposed of the “dirty little things” but it was only four months ago when I quit drinking cold turkey after being diagnosed with MVP. I am greatly thankful for the blessing to live a second life, but as an imperfect and stubborn human being, I continue to struggle mentally and physically. I got so used to holding a bottle in the past that letting go of it has been driving my “booze brain” crazy.
The booze brain, or the animal side of the brain, makes us think that life is all about alcohol. Because it is “primitive”, it doesn’t really care what happens to us. It tricks us to feel negative if we deprive ourselves of alcohol. You see, traveling and drinking go hand in hand. I have proven it many times in the past. The connections I made, because I held a bottle in my hand, have come a long way. So I’m really not sure how to survive traveling without drinking. I don’t know if I’ll end up depressed because I could no longer take a tequila shot.
Last, but not the least, is the challenge of battling hypochondria while on the road. It’s not easy living life if your mind tells you that a slight pain near the chest is already a heart attack, or a tiny headache means a brain hemorrhage. The challenge is, of course, being alone and not having anyone to talk to when it suddenly strikes. It brings with it an immense feeling of anxiety and a horrible case of palpitation.
I guess the bigger your dreams are, the bigger life’s challenges become. The question at the end of the day is: how are you going to deal with those challenges?
I will not lie by saying that I’m not afraid of the future because I am afraid! This is a whole new different world and experience. I will be alone and I have to face EVERY obstacle that comes my way (and I have no means of “texting” a friend or a family member because all cellphone networks are useless in Myanmar). I could already hear my mom telling me to STAY PUT wherever I am right now 🙂
But if there’s one positive note lurking from this sea of negativity, it’s my excitement. This excitement, of course, comes with FAITH.
Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand.
Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.
I’ve come a long way to reach this moment in my life. I never thought that I would travel for a month or reach Myanmar after 2 years of wishing. So will I turn my back now? Should I just stay home because I have these really horrible mental conditions?
Everything in life is a risk. But someone wise once said, TAKE THE LEAP and BELIEVE. So I’m not here to stay put (sorry mom). I’m going to go out there and live, carrying the only weapon I have…my faith, even if it’s still as small as a seed.
For those who have gone through life’s challenges, I would like to know how you managed to face them. Please do share your story in the comments below or you can also email me.